His Birth and Early Life
Fr. John Peter was born to Savarinayagam and Thomaiammal on May 29, 1941 at Thiruppanthuruthy, Thanjavur district. Being childless for about 15 years his parents prayed to St. Anthony of Padua for an issue and Fr. John Peter and his twin brother were the result of their earnest prayer. The twins were baptized as Peter and Paul at the church of Our Lady of Good Health at Thiruppanthuruthy (Kumbakonam diocese) on June 15, 1941. He was a native of Michealpatti a catholic village but his father moved temporarily their residence to Thiruppanthuruthy due to his job at the time of his birth. He had his primary education at his home town Michealpatti and his high school at Thirukattupalli.
Franciscan Capuchin Vocation
Fr. John Peter had a burning desire to become a Capuchin priest because he was an ardent devotee of St Anthony of Padua. After his high school he joined the Capuchin Seraphic Seminary at Shanthi Ashram, Coimbatore in 1959. Having completed his Latin course, he was received at the novitiate of Monte Mariano, Mangalore (Karnataka) on May 14, 1962 and he was given a religious name Roland. He made his first profession on May 16, 1963. Fr. John Peter did his philosophical studies at Thrissur, Kerala; on completion of it he made his solemn commitment on May 16, 1966. He pursued his theological studies at The Friary, Kotagiri from 1966 -69. Throughout his formation he was identified as prayerful, simple, humble, docile, reliable, open, hardworking and ascetic.Fr. John Peter was ordained a priest on December 11, 1969 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Madurai by His Grace Most. Rev. Justin Diraviam, the archbishop of Madurai.
As Young Priest
During the formative years Fr. John Peter was noted for his keenness and austerity. He was also a man of self-sacrifice and dedication. After his ordination he was assigned as teaching staff at minor seminary, Amalashram. As member of the Capuchin Mission Band he also undertook preaching ministry in few parishes. After two years of service in the formation, he was transferred to Fatima Church, Coimbatore as assistant parish priest in 1972. After a year again he was back to Amalashram and was assigned as assistant directorofminor seminary.
A Deep Search to be A Mystic
Having put in two years of selfless service in the formation, he was sent to Rome to specialize on spirituality. When he was there in Rome he showed much interest on the spirituality of the great mystics St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. His calm and serene life pushed him towards these great Carmelite mystics. Fr. John Peter learned quickly Spanish and travelled to Spain on vacations and mastered on the mystic spirituality. He too was a linguist and was able to converse in Latin, English, Italian, Spanish, French and German besides Tamil.
Having completed successfully his licentiate on Spirituality, Fr. John Peter returned to the province in 1976. Once again he was appointed at Amalashram and was assigned as director of the minor seminary. In addition, he was also appointed as spiritual father to all the Capuchin formees of the province. About a year back in 1978, he was elected as one of the provincial councillors. Besides his service at Amalashram, he rendered often his spiritual animation to the sisters of Trichy St Anne’s and Holy Cross. He was always well appreciated for his spiritual discourses and holy life. He was a man of simplicity and had a big heart for the poor and the suffering. He spent lavishly his time in prayer and meditation. Even at night he kept awake to pray before the Eucharistic Lord and was always faithful to all the activities of the fraternity. He was a man of soft spoken and never grumbled against anything or anyone. He manifested beautifully his spirituality through his simple, serene and holy life.
Sister Sickness and Sister Death
It was in the month of August 1978 that Fr. John Peter complained of pain in the stomach. One of the abnormal glands taken for biopsy revealed that it might be cancer. First, he was treated at Visuvanathan hospital in Trichy and later he was taken to government general hospital, Chennai. Here he was operated on and the suspicion of cancer was confirmed, fifteen days after the operation Fr. John Peter passed away (38) on March 2, 1979. His mortal remains were brought to Amalashram, Trichy and were laid to rest in the friary on the following day. In the hot summer, suddenly there was unusual heavy rain at the time of his burial. During his illness never complained of anything, with innocent smile he always endured his pain and agony. Many came to sympathise with him but he used to repeat the words of St. Paul “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1: 21). He was a true suffering servant of Lord Jesus Christ. His holiness came to limelight at the time of his illness and every one still wonders of his forbearance. He was indeed a humble servant of the Crucified Lord and a true son of Father St Francis.
A man of Holiness
In Fr. John Peter, we have lost a spiritual giant. His studiousness is second to none. All those who have come into contact with him have words of high appreciation on his simplicity and spirit of poverty and above all his detachment. With regard to his personal belongings he hardly had the bare necessities. He will be ever remembered with a deep sense of gratitude for his genuine commitment. We may meet many good souls in our life but we will never meet another John Peter SAVARINAYAGAM.He was declared as Servant of God and the diocesan cause for his beatification and canonization was opened on December 3, 2019 at Amalashram, Trichy by Most. Rev. F. Antonisamy, bishop of Kumbakonam.